Achieve a Growth Driven Mind Set with Dr. Farha Shariff

February 17, 2016


Do you know that only 8% of people who make resolutions are successful? By the time the second week of  January hits,  ¼ of us who made goals have already abandoned them. It’s not that we don’t have good intentions, or go about the resolution itself, but rather, how attainable the goal is.  In my experience if you can’t measure it, it’s not a very good resolution; vague goals beget vague resolutions. Resolutions. I hate that word.

The funny thing about resolutions is that there is something comfortable, concrete and tangible about creating resolutions, right? Like starting over tomorrow, or Monday, or next week.  Rather than thinking about creating “resolutions” for myself  (which I have done and failed many times over) I have shifted my thinking from a fixed mind set to a growth mindset. Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University Psychologist, studied the concept of ‘mindset’ and the psychology of success. A fixed mindset is where people believe that their basic qualities are fixed traits. These qualities can include intelligence, talent, musical ability, athleticism etc.  They also believe that talent alone creates success, without effort. Therefore, they spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing it, working on it or trying to improve it.

A growth mindset is where people believe in the idea that talent and ability is a work in progress and that the most basic qualities like the ones listed above can be developed through dedication and hard work.  I am a work in progress, I can and will be better. I am better.  This view promotes resiliency, grit and more specifically, motivation.

Your vision should be rooted in what you want for your ideal life and expressed in affirmative language.

What motivates you to want to be better and where does this motivation come from? To start eating cleaner, for example.  Vanity aside, maybe it’s because you want to be able to keep up with a partner or spouse who is interested in sports or recreational activities and you need the energy. Perhaps you want to have low energy at work and consume too much sugar or you need to keep up with your kids or while you’re walking the dog? Whatever the reason may be, successful “resolutions” (or what I like to refer to as your “vision”) begin long before January 1st. Mine, is to drink less coffee. God help me.  

Insert growth mindset.  Rather than thinking, “I’ve never been good at sports” (I grew up being completely un-interested in sports, thinking I was never good at them) or  “I can’t eat healthy” (I have an IN-SANE sweet tooth and grew up having a can of Coke in my lunchbox) I shifted my thinking and thought, “I’m not only going to try this workout thing, I’m going to learn to love it and use it to teach my girls to love and take care of their bodies” and “eating healthy is the only option to fuel my family and help promote healthy and well-rounded eating habits for my girls.”

I am a work in progress, I can and will be better. I am better.

Your vision should be rooted in what you want for your ideal life and expressed in affirmative language.  Right now, what’s coming up for me is coffee. (I want it all the time.)  Insert affirmative language: By the end of the week, I am drinking one litre of water every time I drink a coffee.   Along with being rooted in affirmative language, you should put some serious thought into this vision (as small and simple as it may be) and think about it for a while.  This is what some researchers call the “contemplation phase.” This is the period when you develop an attainable vision (idea) and the confidence that you can stick with it even if you may slip occasionally.  Enroll others to put you into action, tell people who can hold you accountable about your vision and involve others in your efforts.  By having people hold you accountable, you are less likely to quit because you’ll let people down.  By end of week I drink one litre of water with my coffee and I only order decaf tea when I meet Naila for lunch.


Simple right?

Here are some easy steps to get you started:

  1. Get very clear on what it is you need most and why. Drink more water, get active, cut some sugar (be realistic here…), be more assertive at work, speak up during class, stop checking your phone every 2 seconds… simple. Make them simple, measurable things.
  2. Figure out why you want to do this. Have a real conversation with yourself. What is the root of why you want this? Is it internal or external motivation? Try and find an internal reason that matters most to you and not to satisfy an external “thing”.
  3. Write it down. There’s something about putting it in writing that makes connections in your brain and into your body. Its visual, tangible and real.
  4. Enroll someone who holds you accountable. Someone who will actually call you out if you try and default to bad habits. (You know who that person is, yes, you should call them.) Don’t get mad if they actually call you out. Be open to feedback and accept what they are putting down.
  5. Get into action. Now.

… Yesterday.



Farha Shariff
| wifey | mummy | lululemon ambassador | goal digger | caffeinated prof |

I married my first and only love.  I am mummy to three bossy, busy, girls who will run the world one day.  Proud lululemon ambassador for Whyte Avenue, I am committed to creating  and cultivating community.  Closet nerd, academic and prof at the UofA, my areas of research include teacher education, curriculum, Social Studies and English Language Arts Education. How do I balance family, career, business and staying healthy? I lift very heavy things, squat often and have a good supply of crunchy peanut butter in the pantry.

Say hi!  Farha.Shariff@yeg-cycle.com  
Photography by: Kurt Bugasto

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